What’s in a Name? – Night Ramblings

Sugiharti Halim: What’s in a name?

An interesting video, looking back at another long-put discrimination against Chinese Indonesians in terms of names.

Back then, in the New Order, a decree was made to get Chinese Indonesians to choose their allegiance, whether they are going to stay true to their Chinese inheritance and deny Indonesian citizenship or instead become the latter, forcing them then to adopt Indonesian names.

The video then contemplates on its implications on the children of those first generations who experienced name-changing policy and decided to get Indonesian names, as well as naming their offsprings with Indonesian names later on.

My family from my mother’s side is a long-line of generations of Chinese Indonesians. Though unfamiliar with its history, I know enough that my grandfather underwent this period. I also know that my maternal family line is of Hokkien Chinese and that my granddad’s Chinese name was The Oen Siang (although, do pardon me, I might misspelled the last name). He later adapted the Indonesian name Untung Gunawan. My grandmother herself is a Klang Chinese who was adopted into a Hokkien family, and her Chinese name was then changed from Siek Ngo San to Kwee Kien Nio. Later she adopted the Indonesian name Haryani Tedja Mertadiwangsa. From my mom’s faint recollection of her childhood, she did acknowledged that 6 of her elder siblings still obtain Chinese names from my grandparents and that my mom did, too, although her name was not recorded officially and later unused and forsaken. All that remains is a distant, meaningless name of The Poe Liang. Afterwards, none of the grandchildren I know have Chinese names. Now, only my cousins’ children would get Chinese names if they got married to someone of Chinese inheritance as well. I know for sure two of my nephews have Chinese names and their parents use the names frequently at home.

No doubt, this is one of the domino effect of the 1965 coup and one of the worst massacre in the Indonesian history.

As a child of multicultural identities, I spent quite some time in my teens struggling with my own cultural inheritance and identity. My parents’ separation and, later, divorce, did little to help. Not that I think had it not happen in the first place it would be easier for me to obtain a sense of ethnic identity.

My paternal grandfather himself is a Balinese while my grandmother is a Javanese, making me, technically, a Balinese as well since the line passed down from my father.

Growing up mostly in Jakarta, initially, I didn’t even realise that this struggle of identity exists in the first place. I spent most of my childhood in my paternal grandma’s home in Jakarta, where, fortunately, I was either too ignorant or simply never experienced any discrimination being partially Chinese Indonesians. The fact that I don’t at all look Chinese physically did crossed my mind, too, but at the same time, I barely understood the word “discrimination” and “racism” in the first place back then. Although my grandma’s household carefully shows a slight, faint gap of the hierarchical structure of race (e.g. Javanese vs Chinese Indonesians), religion (e.g. Islam vs Christian), and even of master and servant, they never showed any discriminative attitudes toward people whom I’ve met who are different. I spent my childhood in an elementary school, where most problems revolved around my flunked grades and ranking, and trivial friendship problems. I never noticed any of my friends whose races are different, and I distinctly remember getting confused over a friend’s statement who said that she didn’t want to be friend with someone because this someone is of different religion. Seriously, that didn’t make any sense to me.

Then, back at my grandma’s home, I’d spent the rest of my day playing too much with the babu‘s kids who are of my age. I remember playing badminton too much, losing way too many shuttlecock somewhere in the field, and buying too many rackets and shuttlecocks replacements. I didn’t even understand why my mom wouldn’t let me transfer to the babu‘s son’s school which is much, much nearer to my grandma’s house (which means I wouldn’t have to wake up very early anymore every morning, only to get to the school late every single day). I didn’t realise that she (and maybe my grandma, too) minded because the school she sent me to is a more expensive, probably better, private school. No one made me feel different there. In fact, now that I think about it, they perhaps pitied me and spoiled me too much because I’m a broken-home little brat.

Then in middle school, I started to experience identity crisis. In my small hometown, there is a stark difference between being a Chinese or a Javanese , a Christian or an Islam, and a master or a servant. Oh, but actually, I need to correct on the religion part. I didn’t see or experience any religious discrimination, really. The friends I’ve met and known are tolerant and very polite, so I should cross that one out. But it became clearer to me, first of all, what it meant to be someone of a more well-off family. We’re not filthy rich, no (some family members might), but my mom and I were definitely not rich enough to own anything fancy. But our family is rich enough to pay for servants.

My cousins’ first reaction upon seeing me kissing a little babu‘s daughter on the cheek was terrified. In a surprised tone (and not in a good way), I was asked why the hell I would kiss a servant’s daughter. In return, I was too surprised of the question itself to give any answer. That was the first time I understood that as one of the “masters,” I was not supposed to kiss them.

Another thing that was clearer to me is the gap existence of those of different race. Amongst my Chinese-looking cousins, strangers would think that I am their babu. When my mom knew, she was furious. That’s when I realised that having a different skin tone could account to something. People would be genuinely surprised when they found out that the Chinese-looking person next to me is my kin. That they are really related to me. And the fact that apparently I wasn’t adopted.

Although ignorant at first, slowly, I started to feel inferior of my skin colour. I hated myself because I was dark-skinned. I hated God because there are people of mixed inheritance, but their inherited genes allowed them to inherit their one of their parents’ narrow eyes or fair skin. I used to hate having wide eyes. And some boy-classmates’ mockery of how big, electrified-looking my eyes are did little to elevate my moods. I thought the way people discriminate me was because I didn’t look Chinese enough. Or perhaps my stupid inferiority made the discrimination exist where there were actually none. And I blamed my not-looking-Chinese-enough for it. I walked home from school one day, taking a shortcut through an empty alley when a guy riding a motorbike came from behind and stopped to squeeze my right boob so hard and then left me stunned and speechless. As I continued walking, an old guy apparently stood nearby and saw everything and said that he didn’t do anything initially because he thought the guy was my friend. Later, I felt very ashamed and humiliated, and again, I blamed my look which is not Chinese enough. I thought if I looked more Chinese, if I had fairer skin and/narrower eyes, if I didn’t look like a babu, this would never happen to me. He wouldn’t dare to touch me had I look like a Chinese nonik.

Only when I entered university and met a lot more people of different cultural background did I realise that not all Chinese Indonesians are discriminative towards those of non-Chinese. It took me quite some time until I finally stopped hinting to strangers that I’m actually partially Chinese because I was afraid of discriminations. Yet what happened next was the complete opposite. As soon as I found out that I could claim my Balinese inheritance (at least until I probably marry a guy of non-Balinese inheritance), I started telling people that I am a Balinese, who was born and raised in Java. It was easier, though, really. No more shocked responses and disbelief statements, although I still did smiled when the old Chinese lady who opens a warung with a tasty Chinese food called me “nonik” instead of “dek.” Only recently did I finally admit to people who ask that I’m also partially Chinese. Back then, I would deny it until my co-worker who found out then told those who asked that I’m actually partially a Chinese Indonesian, too.

I was really surprised upon reading an article by Vltchek who tells a story of a Chinese Indonesian who experienced sexual harassment and later felt ashamed and humiliated, then instead blamed her Chinese inheritance. I thought that those stuffs only happened because you don’t look Chinese enough. That was a significant eye-opener for me, because that’s when I started to explore further of the horrible, discriminative history of the government, from the colonial era up to now, against the Chinese people. How people could hate the Chinese because back then people assimilate Chinese with communism. But even that is only one of thousands of reasons to discriminate Chinese, and some of them are ridiculously fabricated. And the very sad thing is, how easily some people in the country could still be manipulated by racism.

When I watched a family’s story in the documentary film “40 Years of Silence,” I began to understand even better why Chinese Indonesians could be very discriminative to non-Chinese. I wouldn’t blame them, really. Not to mention the racist comments uttered to Ahok who’d become the first Chinese-Indonesian governor of Jakarta, it’s just appalling how shallow the comments uttered and that’s maybe an understatement. But then again, I think now more and more people are becoming more combative against racism, and care less about it. I’d like to believe that more people are beginning to value people more on their personal qualities and performance and characters, and not on their race or religions. Also that those with the racist comments are decreasing in number and who knows, they might be paid to utter such comments.

As I was too spoiled and inferior about myself, not to mention ignorant, I was too focused on my own identity crisis, never thought that the similar things, if not worse, could also happen to others (aside from the calamities of the 1998 riots), but now that I know more about it, I wonder whether all these are simply trivial matters to be shrugged off, compared to those who might have experienced much, much worse discriminations growing up.

P.S. I’m thinking of writing another post someday when I found out more of maternal family’s genealogy because after talking to my mom after writing this, my mom just mentioned another family history, saying the the Javanese inheritance in the family is actually passed down from my granddad-____-‘ It’s just getting more complicated.

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I’m a Javanese-born Balinese, and about 25% Chinese-Indonesian

I had only had a few hours of sleep when I felt someone’s holding my hand tightly. Half-dreaming and half-awake, I saw in front of me the beautiful aging face of my grandmother. She was looking at me, smiling, and asking me questions in language and words I couldn’t comprehend. Partially because I was still trying to be fully awake, and partially because basically, it’s hard to understand what my grandmother is saying most of the time ever since she’s stricken with dementia.

Most of the time, she’d mumble something in Dutch, a language which, sadly, none of her offsprings understand. We would simply reply back in Indonesian whereas she would reply back in Dutch. It’s like she’s only speaking Dutch and that we’re from two very different worlds.

At other times, her mind would wander back to her younger days. She would call me “mother,” or she would call my mom so. And then she’d spotted her oldest son and perceived him as someone else, someone from her past, who are mostly dead and gone now.

All these time, I’ve been writing continuously about my paternal grandfather and his intriguing, but dark past. But recently, I’ve been hanging out with my mom and her family, and watching how my mom taking care of my demented grandma makes me learn, even just a little bit, of my mom’s past and my grandma herself.

Apparently, my grandmother was a refugee in the Japanese-colonized Dutch East Indies when she met my grandfather. She was under my grandfather’s protection, to be precise, living in his house. My grandfather himself was a wealthy Chinese widow, his first wife deceased, leaving him with his children. Despite the age gap, my grandmother being only a few years older from his firstborn, my grandpa and grandma got married anyway.

Whenever I visit my grandpa’s house at Purworejo, Klampok, Central Java (now occupied by one of my cousins and his family), I never ceased feeling awe and spooked at the same time. The house is the very depiction of an old Chinese family house (I’d say it’s resembling the typical Balinese house) where there are small houses inside those wide acres of land. There were remnants of the past, where apparently my grandfather grew and sold some fruits and vegetables to earn the household incomes back then.

One time, when I was visiting one of my aunt’s house, she and my mom gathered in the dining room, talking about their past. Despite being wealthy, my grandpa never stopped pushing my grandma to earn her own income, so she had to work on her own, selling things to the traditional market (I forgot what she sold exactly) to earn extra money. My grandma herself was quite proud, never begging for money from my grandpa. She worked hard, even when the family when bankrupt after my mom was born. I always heard that my mom was born during the most difficult times. My grandma’s oldest son had to left his study in the university to help the family with the newspaper agency business. And even then life was still difficult. They used to eat rice with salt, or soy sauce, and having a salted duck egg for a meal was already considered a luxury for them, and even then they still had to divide one egg into four to be divided for my grandma’s 8 children.

But life is just like a wheel. Sometimes you’re up, and sometimes you’re down, right? And despite the hard and struggling past, most of my grandma’s children are now successful, and my grandma got the chance to enjoy the wealth before she’s stricken with dementia.

Now my mom is taking care of my grandma, who, consumed with dementia, is still pretty robust and strong physically, but whose mind is already eaten away and turned into that of little kid. She becomes very dependent of everyone, especially my mother, and perhaps my mom’s the only person who understand her best.

The last time I came home, I already expected the same thing I’m becoming used to expect of my grandmother these past few years: That she wouldn’t have the slightest idea of who I am, that she’d mistake me as an outsider since I’m her only grandchild with dark skin and doesn’t have the slightest Chinese look, that she’d sleep most of the time, that she’d keep asking the same question over and over, and that she’d mumble either unclearly or in a language I don’t understand (Dutch). Funnily, since she’s Chinese, it would only be logic if she also mumbles in Chinese as well, but I’ve never heard her say anything in Chinese. It’s usually Dutch, or Indonesian, or Javanese.

In the old days, when she was younger, I remember my grandma talking to me gently, kindly, and tried to protect me from anyone or anything who tried to harm me. I remember her wearing kebaya, the Javanese traditional dress, and chewing betel, or sometimes smoking (yes, she smoked). Whenever any of her children or grandchildren was tired, she’d offer to massage us.

I’d chuckled and smiled every time one of those memories crossed my mind, and I can’t help but miss those days. I wish I could turn back the time, and saw another glimpse of my younger grandmother, because those images of her has started to be replaced with her current image: fragile and demented.

There would be stories which, luckily, my mom could laugh at instead of feeling stressed with, of my grandmother. Because of her demented mind, the first days and months she stayed with my mom, she could barely sleep, and that caused my mom to be lacking of sleep just as well. Or sometimes, my mom would wake up, finding my grandmother’s already gone. We’re very fortunate that the neighbors already knew us pretty well, so one of them would find her and guided her home. Once, there was even a pedicab driver who found her astray. All she said at that time–and even now, actually–is that she wanted to go home. All she remembered is her home back then in her childhood and teenage years.

One of the few memories I got of my grandmother that still touched me until now is when her mind was starting to become demented, she’d told me not to go out for too long, or that she’d told me to come up early, because to her, every second could suddenly passed to 6 PM, where it would be dark already, and there would be very few lights on in the streets. One day, she gave me Rp 500,- for my pocket money. At that time, all Rp 500,- could buy me was one cheap candy. I felt choked since I felt like scolding her to correct her errors, yet at the same time tears were already filling my eyes. I managed not to cry in front of her.

My family’s history is really complicated, both from my maternal and paternal sides. But then again, whose family history isn’t complicated, eh? I used to hear that my maternal ancestors were somehow connected distantly to the Sultanate of Yogyakarta, but none of us have any exact idea how it could be anymore. A part that I remembered is that one of our ancestors was actually a child, or perhaps a relative of Hamengkubuwono, who got adopted by one of his Chinese close friends who were childless, and then moved back to China. After he grew up, he returned to Indonesia as a Chinese, and married another Chinese, and then produced more Chinese offsprings (or Chinese Indonesian). No one can really confirm now whether the story is any true or not, and I merely took it a a kind of tale from a distant past, not really caring whether it’s true or not. I could only trace my maternal family line as far as my grandfather, and even I never got to know him. Because of the age gap (about 20 years) between my grandma and grandpa, he was old enough to be my mom’s grandfather when my mom, his last child, was born. My mom was 2 when he passed away. All my mom remembered was that once, he beat up my mom because she was being naughty. But many of her brothers and sisters would remind her how my grandpa used to carry my infant mom on his shoulder whenever he walked around his massive garden where he would sell the fruits and vegetables to feed the family. I remember seeing his photo only once, and all that’s left in my head is merely a vague picture of an old Chinese man. Whenever I heard my mom and her sisters and brothers talked about their past, I kept wondering what kind of person my maternal grandfather was.

Ever since knowing that I can rightly claim my Balinese heritage through my paternal grandfather and my father, I never tell people that I’m Chinese. Partially perhaps because I don’t look like one, and perhaps because I always thought that I cannot tell people so because I’m not 100% Chinese since I don’t look like one, and I don’t speak like one, nor do we still embrace the Chinese culture. But it’s there, and I can’t just shrug it off no matter how disconnected I sometimes feel with it. It’s a part of my family, and a part of my mom that she still holds dear. I suppose now I could say that I’m a Javanese-born Balinese, and about 25% Chinese-Indonesian, despite not speaking any Balinese or Chinese. Well, basically, I’m an Indonesian.

Bali Trip: A Visit to My Family

Earlier today I went to visit my grand father in Denpasar. For someone who admit to be awkward in socializing with others, not to exclude family, I have to say I had a great day.

As I’m not a morning person at all, I woke up earlier today at about 11ish. 10.30ish. 10.45ish. Around that time. And then my mom finally managed to make me take a shower. (Yes, finally!) So after I cleaned myself, ate my breakfast, and took care of the laundry, I called my grandpa and told him that we’re coming soon. That was around 12 PM.

So we tried to stop a taxi, and finally arrived at grandpa’s house at around 1. Not to mention that we were lost before we finally found his house.

Now, let me get this straight first.

I was born in Java, and I have Javanese, Balinese, and Chinese Indonesian heritage from my parents. My grandpa here is a Balinese. The sad thing is that the last time I visited him and met my Balinese family was 2 years ago. And before that, it was about 19 years ago when I was only 4.

So not only I don’t know my Balinese family very well, I was as well having trouble finding my grandpa’s house in Pekambingan area.

I’m also suck–really suck–at navigation, FYI.

So yeah, we almost enter a stranger’s house, mistaking it for grandpa’s house.

Anyway, I finally called him and asked him to show me direction through phone, and we finally arrived.

Yay! Let me do the happy dancing for a while.

* * *

Okay, happy dancing done.

Then we did some catch up, gave him a Tempe Kripik, which is the traditional food from my hometown (a small city called Purwokerto) and chatted for a while.

After that, we went to visit my grandmother–or my grandpa’s sister-in-law, which I should refer to as Kompyang, or simply Nenek. Oh, she’s actually my great grandma. Then as we chat and chat, I start to recollect the family I have here. Apparently, aside from my grandpa, who I refer to more as Pekak, I have plenty other grandpas (Pekak) and grandmas (Oda): Pekak Ned and his wife, Oda Endang, Pekak Made, Pekak Nyoman, Oda Catri, and Pekak Tude, the youngest of all, who could be simply mistaken as my uncle (Uwe). And then the uncles and aunts: Uwe Sunan, Uwe Leila, and Uwe Surya, my 8 years old uncle (according to the family tree, he’s supposed to be my uncle!).

After visiting each one of them (except for Uwe Sunan who’s in Lombok atm, Pekak Nyoman and Pekak Tude), my Pekak and Oda Endang invited me to see Denpasar Festival 4 which was held in Udayana. The traffic–as it has gone crazier and crazier towards New Year–was a complete disaster. So instead of driving to the location of the festival, we parked the car somewhere near the festival, and then decided to go there on foot. Oh yes, there was a heavy traffic jam.

So there, I held my Pekak’s arm tight, while my mom and Oda Endang went window shopping and ended up shopping, indeed. As we separated ways in the festival, I finally managed to persuade Pekak to have dinner with me as he had not eaten anything since we arrived at noon. It was around 9 at that time. I would definitely starving by then, but he kept reassuring me, saying that he’s fine and I don’t have to worry at all about him.

Of course I was worried.

So finally we stopped at this place selling Kambing Guling, Sate and Soto Ayam.

Gulai Kambing
Soto Ayam

Now, this is my favorite part of the day.

As I accompanied Pekak while he ate his dinner, I started to ask him about the books he has at home.

Pathetically, I just found out earlier today that my grandpa apparently is really smart and open-minded, as well as a devoted reader like me. Only he doesn’t read novel. He read non-fictions about Politics and Philosophy. I was really tempted to steal his Dialogue with Socrates as I glanced at it. But of course I didn’t.

He said he likes reading about Politics and Philosophy, and he’d wanted to major in Social & Politics earlier in the university, but as he was born on October 12th 1940, by the time he entered university, there hadn’t been any university which provides good quality of Social & Politics study around. So he went to study law instead, at Airlangga University in Surabaya.

And that was the time when I finally had enough courage to ask a question I’ve been wanting to ask him for years:

“So, grandpa, I was actually wondering… Were you involved with PKI during the 60s?”

And I got a firm “No,” along with a head shake as an answer.

I think I was actually almost disappointed.

To answer your question: No, I didn’t ask that question out of nowhere.

There has been a rumor–well, not actually a rumor. When I was a kid, my grandma and my dad told me once that my grandpa once joined the PKI, and when the national army went around Indonesia to capture PKI members, he was captured and kept in prison for years.

That’s when my grandma decided to remarry again.

PKI Symbol

Anyway, just in case you’re confused what the hell PKI is, it’s a communist party that once dominated Indonesia. Its career ended after the 30 September Movement, and not until Soeharto resigned in 1998 did people start to wonder and talk about what happened. Sadly, these ‘people’ mostly refer to foreigners who study or interested in Indonesian culture and history. I don’t really know many Indonesian who put so much interests in their own history.

(You could click the link for further, clearer, and more complete information.)

Then my grandpa continued and set things straight:

“I wasn’t involved in PKI, to be precise. I was actually involved in the youth organization in campus. The thing is, after the 30 September Movement, the army started to slay and capture those who either actually involved in PKI or those who simply didn’t oppose PKI’s idealism. As a university student, you know, we were full of idealism and thoughts. We want things to be better, and we urged the government to do it. It’s not that we were pro PKI or against it, but we opened ourselves to good ideas and thoughts, especially related to this country. If PKI offered good solutions for this country’s problem, why should we oppose? Sure, were there any other good solutions offered by others, we’d definitely support it. The problem is, the army didn’t see us that way. At that time, there were many prejudices, and our youth movement in campus was not excluded. They simply accused us as PKI supporters, so they captured us and put us in jail. Without proof.”

I also told him that I’ve watched the movie Sang Penari, which was inspired by Ahmad Tohari’s novel Ronggeng Dukuh Paruk and has the story set in the 1960s–sometime before and after the 30 September Movement. I also told him that I read some articles about the PKI and watched The Year Living Dangerously.

I think he wanted to make sure that I wasn’t prejudice toward him, so he asked me first, what do I know about the ‘Movement’ and the party itself. So I told him all I know and all I read.

“There are two kinds of history. One that is told from this perspective, and another one that is told from that perspective. Only reading and listening from one side of the story could mislead you. The more you read, the more you know the truth.”

I’m not gonna argue with someone whose grades in history are always next-to-excellent. I saw his school certificates earlier–from elementary school up to university. He’s really fond of history, turns out.

“So grandpa, how long were you in jail?”

“10–(noise on the street)–minus 1 month.”

“10… months?”

“No, sweetie. 10 years,” and he chuckled.

“10 years!”

My eyes widened.

“Yes, minus 1 month. Your grandma was pregnant with your dad at that time. 3 months pregnancy. I had to leave.”

I remember my dad told me that it wasn’t until he was entering primary school that he found out that his dad at home is not his biological father. He said he called my grandpa a loon who thought he’s my dad’s dad.

I couldn’t imagine being in a cell for 10 years, with… nothing to do. So I asked him what did he usually do there. He told me about the size of the cell. It’s about 1.5 m x about 3.5 m, if my memory serves. They usually fit 3 skinny men in there, so my grandpa simply chat with them. Playing chess sometimes. Take a shower at 8 AM and later 4 PM.

“And?”

“Well, there’s really nothing much you could do in a place like that. If you’re not strong psychologically, you’d crack.”

Deep in my heart, I was thankful that he was still alive up to now.

Then I told him that in the article I read, many influential and smartass were in the PKI and they were put in prison. One of my favorite author, Pramoedya Ananta Toer was in it.

“Oh, Pramoedya? Yeah, he’s really smart. And kind, too. He used to walk around, back and forth–remember there wasn’t enough space in there, so you could simply go back and forth in the same direction–he’d usually walk with dignity.”

“He was there?”

“Yes, yes.” And he nodded.

My grandpa was talking about my favorite author like he’s this cool guy who you usually met at school. “Oh, him? Yeah, we were in the same class. He’s the one who’d usually ask the most questions in class.”

“It’s just unfair how the government treated those people, pops. I mean, they are not criminals who’d steal your wallet or kill you for your money, right? They’re smartasses, who’d actually be very useful to this country.”

My grandpa nodded. “Yea. I changed cell mates for about three times, and almost all of them are educated abroad and very brilliant.”

Holy shit, my grandpa was there to witness the history! He’s there!

And then we went back to the festival.

While we wait for my mom and grandma as they shopped around, I continued my discussion with grandpa. We changed the subject though, this time.

I don’t really remember how it started, but what I remember most is that I was asking him about Sesajen–the offerings made by the Balinese Hindus for the gods.

Now, what’s really interesting and unique about Bali is the custom of offerings. Other than having tons of Pura’s, every Balinese Hindus has at least their own Pura at the front of their houses. Depends on the size of the house (and depends on how rich you are), the size, height and beauty of the small Pura varies. Well, the term Pura might not be the right one, but this ‘small Pura’ is used to put Sesajen, or offerings. Some houses (mostly the wealthier ones) would also have an altar–like a small hall–aside from the small Pura.

The altar at Kompyang's house. Sure is big.

My Pekak’s and Kompyang’s house are not excluded.

The small Pura at my grandpa's house. Sorry, we were standing in front of of it. Say hi to my pops, though!
The one at Kompyang's house.

Then I asked him about the Sesajen.

He told me that the usual Sesajen is called Canang. People usually make Canang as soon as they finished cooking their breakfast. Before they eat their breakfast, they ought to put chunks of whatever they eat for breakfast in the offerings and then put it in the small Pura. Once they finished this, they could then eat their breakfast. Unless you’re sick or away from home, you should put the Sesajen every day as a prayer for all the meals that you’re gonna eat that day. Praying that the nutrition will fill your body and improve your health, and to make sure you’re not to starve.

Another one is called Banten. This one is only made on special occasion. Tourists could see Banten everywhere in malls in Bali where people would put Banten near the front door, or somewhere on the corner of the street, as a prayer for luck and success for their business. When I was here, my mom’s best friend (who mostly pay for my trip and fun here in Bali) hires a driver. He’s a Balinese and whenever we go around to visit some tourism resorts, I would always see a Banten on the car’s dashboard next to the steering wheel.

Banten in Kuta Square. Apparently neglected, due to the heavy, disastrous traffic. But they say it's fine once the Banten is made and offered.

I love Bali because it’s one place where you’d see art and culture blended into one in harmony.

Later we continued on talking about random subjects and random stuffs.

I found out that apparently our ancestors were part of the Ksatrias. But since we don’t really believe in caste system and instead, believe that caste system would only create further discrimination and prejudice, so we no longer use nor acknowledge it. Awesome, though.

Also, apparently, my great-grandfather used to be in the Dutch army. He was trained in the Dutch school for police, and later, he switched side and join his fellow Indonesian to fight for independence. He died sometime later after that, which caused my grandpa to be fatherless. But my great-grandmother and my grandpa received some benefits as a reward for my great-grandpa’s patriotism. Awesome, again.

I learned a Balinese word “Sing Ken Ken” which means “No problem.” Also awesome.

Random Story #4: Phone Call

   She has been starring at her cell phone for about five minutes now. Had anyone paid close attention, they would notice that she was not really starring at her cell phone. She looked at that thing in her hand blankly, as if something occupied her mind.

   And it was. Something. Fill her mind.

   As a matter of fact, it was what appeared on her cell phone screen which made her lost in deep thought.

   Her dad, to be exact.

   The old man had been calling her for at least ten times this morning. Which she did not get. None of them, since she barely heard her cell phone rang.

   She knew this would definitely upset her dad. But she was downstairs, taking a long bath when her dad called her ten times. Since it was Sunday, after all, she thought she could use some extra time to get a nice, comfortable hot bath, which she clearly could not do during weekdays, for she got up early in the morning, break her fast in a hurry, and tried not to be late to the office. Then she did what she ought to do, every week days, until the clock told her it was six o’ clock already, and that she could go home to rest.

   Surely her dad must know that she had been unable to take his calls.

   At least he should’ve take the hint after at least five unanswered calls.

   But no, she sighed as the thought came to her mind. Her dad wouldn’t understand.

   She had been thinking whether she should wait for another call or to call him back instead. Talking to her dad has not been the most pleasant events in the world to her. She’d rather he left her alone and mind his own business instead of hers. But he was her dad, after all, and in the name of courtesy and propriety, she ought to pay the old man some respect and at least try to call him back and explain why she hadn’t been able to take his calls.

   She had decided to call her dad back when her cell phone rang again.

   Her dad.

   Grimly, she pressed the green button, taking the call.

   “Hey, dad.”

   “What the hell were you doing!? I was sick-worried, you know! I could be thinking that someone had kidnapped you, or that your cell phone had been stolen, and–”

   “I know, dad. I’m sorry. No one’s been trying to raid my phone, and I’m fine. I was in the bathroom, you know, and I sure couldn’t bring my cell phone there. That’s why I didn’t hear you call,” she explained.

   “What the devil took you so long in the bathroom!? God, I’ve been trying to reach you since three days ago! Couldn’t you at least texted me, simply to tell me that you’ve been doing okay? I was dead-worried thinking you might be sick since you haven’t contact me since last week!”

   “Geez, dad! It’s only a week! Please, don’t exaggerate things!”

   “It’s only a week! It has been a week without any news from you! Surely you can’t blame me since you never really tell me what’s going on with you! It’s simply in your nature to keep things from me, even if you got sick and could barely get up from bed!”

   “Dad, please. I’m fine!”

   “Once you got married and have kids of your own, lady, you’d completely understand my action, and, pray, don’t seek for my advice! You ought to know better!” He scolded her again.

   Sure, she thought. If I ever got married. But she kept that thought to herself. She knew better than anyone else not to mention even the notion of the idea to her father. It would drive him mad.

   Instead, she sighed.

   “Dad. I’m fine,” she repeated, trying to emphasize every word.

   She heard a sigh from the other side of the line.

   “What’s up?” she asked her dad, trying to sound casual, yet she was actually burned with rage, for the scold she got earlier.

   “Nothing. Just want to catch up,” replied the old man.

   She sighed and rolled her eyes. Just want to catch up!? What’s with all the fuss, then? He sure made an impression that a gang of mafia just tried to rob him and he wanted to make sure that they hadn’t robbed her, too.

   “Oh,” she said instead. “Well… Nothing’s new with me, actually.”

   “Oh,” said her dad. Then silence. Nah, an awkward silence, to be precise.

   “Well,” finally the old man said, breaking the silence. “You know, it’s been a while since you’re home, young lady. You’re still gonna go home this weekend, are you?”

   “Yes, dad,” she said. It’s the fifth time he asked her that very same question, and now it has begun to irk her.

   “Well, then, have you prepared for the things you’re taking with you?”

   “I haven’t, but I still got time. It’s still a week ahead, dad.”

   “Well, but… you know, you should’ve started to prepare things, right?”

   “Geez, dad, it’s still a week later!”

   “Well, you know better, then,” said her dad in a rush, trying not to make another commotion. At least he realized how she inherited his temper.

   She sighed, then, filling the silence that came afterwards. She was clearly reluctant to break the silence, only hoping that this small talks and politeness would end soon. Not that she hated her dad, but one too many times she thought her dad was too much overprotective and he definitely exaggerated his affectionate attention toward his one and only daughter.

   Finally her dad spoke up, “So, have you heard about your grandpa?”

   Her mind jumped right away to her dad’s dad who just had a surgery last week, and she’d been dying to know how her grandpa had been doing following the surgery, but the thought that his dad would chatter endlessly on the phone was unbearable to her. She only wanted to end the conversation right away. But she knew the courtesy obliged her to continue this conversation, so she said,

   “No. How’s he doing so far?”

   “About time you ask. He’s been doing great. Tough guy, he is. You know he was walking unsupervisely last night to the bathroom while he was supposed to sleep and rest in bed? Thank God  he didn’t got slipped in the bathroom. We were worried sick, and I think I frightened the nurse for failing to notice this careless action. She ought to accompany him all the time!”

   “Slow down, dad. She’s a human being. At least grandpa’s fine now. Nothing happened, right.”

   “Well, yea, but something worse could’ve happened!”

   “Are you wishing for it?”

   “Young lady, watch your tongue.”

   “I know. Sorry,” she replied, regretting every words she had said, cursing at her stupid mouth.

   “Well, tell grandpa I said hi,” she said.

   “Will do, if only he remembered you.”

   “Well, tell him anyway.” She understand completely that her grandpa had been suffering from some sort of dementia. The only memory survived in his mind was his memories of his younger days.

   “You know, he’d been walking out to the hospital’s garden this morning, slipping away from the nurse. They were freaking out earlier at the hospital until they found him wandering aimlessly in the garden. Looking for his dad, he said.”

   “Jesus! What happened, then?”

   “Well, they took him back to bed, and as soon as I got to the hospital, I warned him not to go anywhere unsupervised anymore. He promised me that he’d stay in bed until I, or the doctor told him otherwise. Sakes, he called me ‘dad’!”

   She chuckled. Likewise, she thought.

   “Well, that’s grandpa. As expected, right?”

   “Yea. He kept asking me how his brother’s been doing, with him lying sick in the hospital. I kept reminding him that I’m not his dad. I’m his son and both his elder brother and father had passed away.”

   “Daddy! Is it wise to tell him so?”

   “Well, it’s the fact, right? It’s no good to let him believe that he’s back in the olden days, anyway. He ought to know that this is 2011 already, after all.”

   “Yea, it’s true,” she said, agreeing.

   And then another silence followed.

   God I hate this, she thought.

   “Well…,” she tried to end the conversation.

   “I met Kerry’s cousin the other day,” he said, out of the blue.

   She sighed. Apparently the conversation would last longer than she’d expected. Kerry was her cousin. Distant cousin, to be exact, who she barely knew.

   “Oh,” she replied briefly, hoping that whatever it is he was about to tell her, would be as brief.

   “She told me Kerry apparently got a job in a big, multi-national company. Sakes, she earned more than 7 million every month! Can you believe that?”

   She shutted her eyes for a while. Please, she muttered to herself, let it not be another talk of a better job. I’d prefer to choose my own profession, so please-please-please, don’t let him suggest another better job for me.

   “Well, I’m glad to hear that. I wish her every luck in the world,” she responded.

   Please stop now, she screamed inside.

   “Your aunt M has apparently back in town, by the way,” he added shortly.

   God, she thought. So what? It has nothing to do with me!

   “Oh. So?” She can’t believe she just said that to her dad.

   “Well, she was asking how you’ve been doing, and wondering when you’d come home.”

   “Tell her I’m doing okay. As to coming home, you know when I’d come home.”

   “Well, yes, I know. But I’ve been wondering…”

   No. No, no, no, no, she screamed in horror inside.

   “–whether it’s possible for you to come home sooner.”

   No!

   “I miss you, you know.”

   Dammit!

   Yet she blew another sigh before she replied,

   “No, dad,” she said in a firmer tone. “No, it’s not possible for me to come home sooner. I’ve got work to do, you know.”

   She’d been missing her dad as well, in fact. But what her dad had said made her wish she could go anywhere but home for the weekend.

   Truthfully speaking, as much as she loved her dad, she thought she really needed a long-long break from him. May God be merciful and let him have a long life so she won’t have to regret for having the thought alone.

   “Yeah, I know,” her dad said, desperately.

   “We’ll see each other in a week, anyway, so there’s really nothing to ramble about missing me at all, dad.”

   “Yeah,” replied the old man sadly, and she regretted right away for showing him such attitude before.

   “I got to go now, dad. Talk to you later,” she said.

   “Okay.”

   “Bye,” she added, really hoping that she could end the conversation right away, but she knew she ought to wait for her dad’s reply.

   “Bye.”

   So she hang up.

   She sighed again.

   God, she thought. I’m a horrible, horrible monster.